Practice

(Trigger warning: violence against old ladies)

Last night, I kicked an old lady in the belly.
In my defense she was crowding me.
I thought I just got her leg or something.
It didn’t feel like a belly.
It felt like a leg, or a foot.
And when I was hanging at the end of the lane wiping fog off my goggles and she told me what had happened, I said “I’m sorry.”
Those exact words.
In my defense the pool was really crowded and people in the Austrian pools I’ve experienced have no pool culture.
Normally, you have a lane and you swim laps in it clockwise or counterclockwise.
In a systematic fashion, in other words.
In this pool last night, the left half was being used by kids training for some team and the lower half of the right half was full of very large persons with neoprene gloves standing around for a fitness class, and everyone else was sort of swimming around in what was left over.
Not that it really matters. I also feel uncomfortable in a pool with strict lanes, because what George Carlin says about driving – how all the other drivers are either idiots (slower than you) or maniacs (faster than you) also applies to swimming and I am usually an idiot but sometimes also a maniac, and I don’t like myself in either role.
So I was relieved when my wife got sick of it (and probably didn’t want to listen to anyone else I kicked tell them about the hip operation they just had) and we left and asked for our money back.
We didn’t get our money back but we got credit to use the next time we swim.
It won’t be on a Tuesday, that’s children’s day and they’re the worst.
On paper, Monday looked good – the whole right half of the pool was free, but that’s the difference between theory and practice for you.
Practice is always fucking with you.

The least-flappable person I know

Cast: Man, in his fifties, white hair (mad-scientist-style), beard, wearing paint-spattered  pants, white dress shirt stained with silver nitrate solution, rubber gloves (also stained), protective goggles over glasses, and a head lamp (LED with red filter). Woman, in her twenties, whom man has known since she went to school with his daughter, wearing whatever women in their twenties wear.

Woman: (rings doorbell) [Insert doorbell sound effect here]

Man: (comes around corner from back yard) Oh hi. Beta’s out for a walk with her mom. Dunno when they’re going to be back. You can wait for them if you want, or I can give her a message.

Woman: Hi! She was going to loan me a backpack. I can come back later.

Man: Ok. I’ll tell her you stopped by. See you. (goes back to messing around with antique camera in back yard)

Woman: Ok. Bye. (leaves)

Shroud

Don’t forget to have her check you for… says Odin’s wife.

Yeah, yeah, says Odin, who is going to the dermatologist.

Odin is used to waiting a long time at doctors, so he is a little surprised by the speed at which things transpire this time.

Do you have time to check me for… he asks the doctor after spending less than a single article in an obsolete magazine in the waiting room.

Sure, she says. He gets undressed and she looks him over. A mirror takes him by surprise and he resolves to work out more and eat less.

Nothing he had worried about was anything to worry about, she says, But this here, now. It should go immediately. You want an appointment or shall we do it now?

Um, says Odin. Now, I guess.

Let me show it to you, enlarged on the monitor.

Odin looks at it, feeling like a character in an H.P. Lovecraft story gazing upon an Old One nestled down amidst belly hairs enlarged to two-by-fours.

Yeah, let’s do it now, he says, with increased vigor.

Back onto the table, shave, shot, cookie-cutter, stitch, stitch, bandaid and he’s standing up again looking at the hygienic paper cover the doctor had unrolled over the table before plopping him down. It looks like the Shroud of Turin, a little crumpled, with a sweat stain the size and shape of a medium-to-large man and, down by the feet, a bunch of black fuzz.

Apparently Odin’s socks today are lintier than average.

Or: the Effects of Fear-Induced Perspiration on Lint Adhesion, thinks Odin.

I always thought it was just a mole, thinks Odin. But it was something else. Something… eldritch and ancient.

In this fashion, Odin will go about cheering himself up.

The doctor gives him an an appointment to have the stitches out on April first. Upon hearing the date, tasteless prank after prank begin scrolling through Odin’s brain.

Nothing he could ever really do, but still. He is thankful for the distraction, it keeps him from thinking about the linty, sweaty paper, and about the tiny, ancient thing.

 

 

Little red hat

2014 is going to be the year Odin streamlines his life. The year he throws old crap away.

Like all his t-shirts with clever sayings on them.

Or not — his kids might want those, so he’ll hang onto them.

But his workshop, all this junk! And on top of that, the new beer making kit he got for Christmas. And not even counting the wet plate camera he hasn’t bought yet. Where to start?

Odin is sitting in the attic, telling his wife what’s in boxes so she can inventorize what they have in their attic prior to throwing stuff out. Odin is like, why not just throw it out and save a step. And he is also like, old magazines in this box. Painting canvases. Some sort of plumbing fixtures. Travel case for a harp.

In another universe, Odin has a temporary job taking inventory for some company. He is standing in front of a wall of televisions in a shop, counting them. The Space Shuttle takes off and then explodes. Odin sees two dozen images of debris angling through the sky, leaving a white trail.

Odin and his wife are doing pretty good in the cellar. They donate a lot of old clothes. Then, this box: ballerina duds. A princess dress. Like that.

A little red hat.

There is another universe, 20 years ago, it is the carneval season, children are being led through games at a public carneval party in the city hall.

About 20 years ago. Or only 12 — Odin gets his universes mixed up. It would depend which daughter, Thor or Loki.

Christ.

Through the blue haze of all the smoking mommies, Odin can see her, in her red hat, covered in confetti, wearing the red hat, dancing.

There was also a lady bug costume, he finds the hat to that one too.

Odin remembers a lady bug dancing, spinning in circles.

Odin and his wife box the red hat back up.

So anyway.

Today is the first work day of 2014. It is quiet out. Odin is not hungry at lunch time but he wants to check on the crows.

Odin strolls to the store. It is warm for the second day of January. The small grey crow swoops down and accompanies Odin to the store, where he gets peanuts and a curry chicken sandwich.

He sits on the bench and all three crows are there waiting.

It is such a quiet day, like the end of the world. Like the world could still decide 2013 was the final year.

The four of them eat sandwich, they eat peanuts.

What say the slain?

I dreamt someone on a motorcycle whipped my leg with a strap and captured me, I was balanced on the handlebars and gathered myself and kicked them to get away, and woke myself up kicking in bed. I asked the dream what it was and it said, what supports us binds us. It said, love. It said, vitality. It said, escape.

What say the hanged?

Memory is not carved in stone after all. It is reinvented all the time. It is stories you tell yourself, and you know how reliable stories are. You find a little red hat and make something up, because you know who wore it, and you know how much you love her.

May we always remember.

I looked in the window and saw you

Odin feels so bad! He hasn’t fed the crows lately. Either he’s busy, away or fasting and doesn’t go out at lunch. But today he goes out. It’s a spectacular, cold, sunny fall day. He buys a curry chicken sandwich and some peanuts and a bottle of water at the store on the corner.

He sits on the bench and eats half the sandwich. Then he eats most of the other half, but the crows don’t arrive. Perhaps they have given up on him, or migrated. He looks up at the sky, and sees a lot of crows flying here and there. He can hear other ones in the distance.

He throws away his garbage and walks back to the office. He holds on to what remains of the second half of the sandwich in case the crows show up, and one does before he has walked very far.

Here you go pal, says Odin, and throws him the food.

What say the slain?

I looked in the window and saw you eating dinner with your daughter. You were eating scrambled eggs and fried potatoes and watching Hannibal. At one point your daughter choked a little when a piece of jalapeno teetered on the edge of her windpipe. At another point she made a remark about how the two of you end up doing things like this, like watching Hannibal at dinner, or going to see The Evil Dead on Father’s Day.

You both smiled a lot, and laughed, even though both of you are fighting autumn depression. You like each other. You have two episodes of Hannibal left. You will watch them tonight. I looked through the window and saw that.

Relationship tips from Erwin Schrödinger


Dear Erwin,
My wife says I must clean up the hedgehog poo from behind the storage shelves in the cellar because the plumber is coming and will be appalled if he looks and sees it. I say if the plumber moves aside the heavily-loaded shelves to check if there is hedgehog poo underneath then he is a PSYCHO FREAK whose opinion is of no consequence and that we should wait until we are moving the shelves anyway and chisel away the excrement then. Who is right?
Yrs, SLEEPLESS IN AUSTRIA

Dear Sleepless,
You were BOTH right until you asked. For a fastidious Austrian woman, it is correct to unload the shelves, move them aside, and chisel away the hardened coprolites, no matter whether she is the one who has to do it, or someone else gets told to. For a lazy American male who has seen too much hedgehog poo for one lifetime, it is correct to wait until the shelves are moved for another reason especially when they hide the poo and it doesn’t stink anyhow. Until the situation is examined, your mutual rightness coexisted in a non-determinate manner.
But then you asked, so I will tell you: your wife is right.
Yrs, Erwin Schrödinger

The optimist and the pessimist

Woman: Go empty the bucket under the drip in the cellar. It’s half full already.

Man: Okay. [Goes to cellar, gets distracted doing something else, forgets bucket.]

[Later]

Woman: Did you empty the bucket?

Man: Oh. [Goes into cellar, looks at bucket, which has a centimeter of water at the bottom, goes back upstairs.]

Woman: And?

Man: It was nearly empty.

Woman: I thought it was half full.

Man: You always do.